Scripture Text – Nehemiah 7
A city is much more than walls, gates, and houses; a city is made up of its people. In the first half of Nehemiah’s book, the people existed for the walls; but now the walls must exist for the people. It was time to organize the community so that the citizens could enjoy the quality of life God wanted them to have. God had great things in store for Jerusalem, for one day His Son would walk the city streets, teach in the temple, and ultimately die outside the city walls.
Establishing Citizenship – Continued
Please read Nehemiah 7:4-69 for some background on this section.
The animals were mentioned because they were vitally important to the Jewish agricultural economy and to the work of rebuilding the nation.
The total of the figures in this list is 29,818; but Nehemiah’s total is 42,360. When you add the 7,337 servants and the 245 singers to the 29,818 total, you get a total of 37,400, a difference of almost 5,000 from Nehemiah’s figure. Some of these extra unnumbered people may have been priests who could not prove their genealogy as seen in verses 63–65, as well as others who didn’t fit into any special category. If we knew all the facts about how Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 were compiled and copied, we would understand what only appears to be discrepancies.
The important thing is not to count the people but to realize that these people counted. In leaving Babylon, they did much more than put their names on a list. They laid their lives on the altar and risked everything to obey the Lord and restore the Jewish nation. They were true “pioneers of faith” who trusted God to enable them to do what was seemingly the impossible.
Before continuing on, it might be good for all of us or any of us to ask ourselves, “If I had to prove my genealogy in order to get into God’s city, could I do it?” We are all heading for one of two destinies—heaven or hell—and only those who belong to God’s family can enter heaven. Anyone can enter God’s family by receiving Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior, and this alone guarantees our entrance into heaven (John 1:11–12; 3:16; 14:6).
And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas, fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas, and two thousand two hundred silver minas. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments.
So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. – Nehemiah 7:70-73.
Citizenship and leadership together can make a state, but it takes worship to make that state into a godly nation. John Stuart Mill wrote, “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” But the worth of the individual depends on his or her relationship to God, and this involves worship. If individual godliness declines, the morality of the nation declines. This is so very apparent in the day and age we are living in now.
The parallel passage is Ezra 2:68–70, which tells us that some of the Jewish leaders gave generously to the temple ministry. But Nehemiah informs us that the governor, Tirshatha and some of the common people also gave offerings to the Lord. It was only right that the leaders set the example. A thousand drams would be about 19 pounds of gold, and 20,000 drams would be just about 375 pounds. It seems obvious that some of the Jewish leaders left Babylon very wealthy men, with precious metals and servants; however, within a few years, the economy will be failing and the nation will be in the grips of a crippling depression (see Haggai 1).
But all of this money would have been useless were it not for the God-appointed ministers at the temple: the priests, Levites, singers, and all of the helpers. Moses had assigned special towns for the priests and Levites to live in (Numbers 35:1–8; Joshua 21), but later Nehemiah had to move some of them into Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1–2).
It was now the seventh month (October–November), when Israel was expected to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:23–44). There could have been no better time for Nehemiah to call the people together to honor the Word of God, confess their sins, and to dedicate themselves and their work to the Lord. What began with concern in the beginning led to construction and conflict, but the time was dawning for consecration (chapters 8–12).
To Be Continued